Accepted Paper:

Embodiment, affect and the transformation of HIV: intimate knowledge and biomedical consensus  


Peter Keogh (Open University)
Catherine Dodds (University of Glasgow)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper we revisit accounts of people living with or around HIV collected through qualitative studies conducted over the last 22 years in order to explore the potential of intimate (embodied and affective) forms of knowledge to trouble biomedical consensus around the transformation of HIV.

Paper long abstract:

Over two decades, developments in antiretroviral treatments are credited with transforming HIV from a generally fatal to a chronic condition. The re-purposing of treatments for HIV prevention has rendered those who are 'virally supressed' non-infectious.

Transformations in the experience of and the meanings ascribed to HIV are generally characterised as a triumph of biomedical/pharmacological knowledge production described in the promissory language of scientific 'advance' and 'breakthrough' . Moreover, the epidemic has entailed intense epistemic and discursive production not only in the biomedical/pharmaceutical spheres, but also in epidemiology, public health, the behavioural sciences, social policy as well as communitarian, political, cultural and artistic spheres. Thus collective responses to HIV have been characterised as technological assemblages drawing on diverse disciplinary knowledges.

In this paper, we consider the invisible role of intimacy in such knowledge assemblages in order to disrupt biomedical and scientific hegemony in accounts of the transformation of HIV. We are involved in a project revisiting in-depth interviews with 740 people living with or around HIV in the UK from 15 studies conducted between 1997 and 2016. We consider the accounts of 12 people from four studies conducted respectively in 1997, 2008, 2011 and 2016. Revisiting accounts of everyday engagements with HIV allows us to explore the generation and circulation of intimate knowledges of HIV (affective knowledge: fear, anxiety, love, excitement, remorse; embodied knowledge: fatigue, bodily transformation, sickness/recovery, bleeding, orgasm). In particular, we focus on infectiousness and consider the role of intimate knowledge in bringing about states of 'non-infectiousness'.

Panel A15
Intimate entanglements in science and technology